Putting money in a savings account seems simple enough, yet it's a struggle for many. According to federal data by Statistics Brain, the average U.S. family's savings account held a balance of $3,800 in 2014. While there has been an upward trend in the amount being socked away each year, increasing savings account balances can help Americans meet their long-term goals, such as retirement.
When building your savings account, take the task head on by defining a clear course of action and setting specific goals.
Know how you'll use the money. There are a variety of ways you can use your newly earned savings, from growing your savings balance to making a major purchase to paying down debt. Set an attainable goal, such as paying off a credit card, funding a down payment for a new house or making an extra mortgage payment.
Challenge yourself to save. If you need a little extra motivation, tackle a program that lets you gradually step up your savings game, such as the 52 Week Savings Challenge.
"A savings challenge is a great way to ensure you're not only stashing money away, but doing so on a regular basis," said John Heath, directing attorney for Lexington Law. "Creating a habit of saving money is the ultimate takeaway, and the simplest way to ensure a solid financial future for your family."
The challenge is simple: start off saving $1 the first week, $2 the second week, and eventually $52 in the final week of the challenge. If you save each week throughout the year, you will be $1,378 richer. You may find it helpful to set a weekly reminder to stay on track.
Remember, although the challenge suggests starting off with $1 for the first week, you could decide to save more if your budget allows and come out an even bigger winner.
Ditch the money jar. By opening a savings account, you will be far less likely to "borrow" from yourself. Having an account also makes it easier to arrange for automatic recurring transfers that move money from your checking account to your savings account on a regular schedule. If your paycheck is delivered via direct deposit, you can also direct a portion of each check directly to savings.
Use accounts that give you a boost. Most financial institutions offer a variety of saving options to fit your needs. For example, if you meet certain criteria, you may be eligible to open a high-interest savings account to grow your savings even higher. Another route is to choose a savings account that imposes penalties for excessive withdrawals. While these accounts can feel restrictive, they provide a valuable deterrent for those who are too easily tempted to dip into their savings.
Treat your savings contribution like a bill. Create a budget that outlines all your expenses, and includes a line for savings. Thinking of your savings account as a debt to be paid will help hold you accountable for making regular deposits and limit any tendencies to spend what you may have been able to save.